It’s no secret that most au pairs pack their bags and move abroad to live with strangers purely for the adventure and travel. In fact, the main benefit of working as an au pair is the opportunity to live abroad very cheaply as all living expenses are covered by the host family. Especially in expensive cities like Sydney, becoming an au pair makes it possible to see and experience the pricier places without the major price tag.
Au pairs are hired as live-in childminders who may also be required to perform household duties in exchange for meals, accommodation and a small wage or pocket money. Although au pairs don’t make a huge amount of money, it is a fantastic way to travel on the cheap.
Australian au pair demand has doubled in the past three years, however the supply of live-in child carers has failed to keep up, causing a significant shortage. The huge demand has forced some agencies to stop accepting new applications from families and urged the industry to lobby for the creation of a specific au pair visa program for foreign workers. The industry is lobbying the government to create a specific au pair via for working holiday makers. If the industry gets its way the specific au pair visa will allow works to stay with one family or job for 12 months as opposed to the standard six.
Therefore now is the perfect time for travellers stumped to take advantage of the demand, down a spoonful of sugar, dust off their soccer boots and apply.
Although there are no specific requirements to become an au pair, experience in childcare is highly regarded and even essential for some families. Qualifications in early childhood or children’s education are also desirable, but not compulsory.
Padding out your résumé with any child related experience will help your chances of getting a job, even if it’s simply babysitting your siblings or taking care of the neighbour’s kids – put it in. Families not only want to know that you can like being around children, but that you are capable of taking care of their little ones.
There are several ways of finding jobs. Many au pairs register with a local agency that organise their placement, securing a job and accommodation before they leave their home country. There are also Australian based agencies that place foreign au pairs after arrival.
Families pay a placement fee to secure an au pair through relevant agencies, but for the au pair there should be no charge. Agencies will be much more fanatical when it comes to certificates, reference checks and experience. Many require a current first aid certificate, police clearance, two references and visa details.
Another option is to explore relevant job-search websites where you create your own profile and browse the database for potential families.
On meeting the family you will likely settle on details such as responsibilities, wage, hours, duration and leave entitlements; all of which should be set out prior to beginning. Household chores and childcare expectations are dependent on the needs of the family but usually include school runs, babysitting, light cleaning, cooking and washing. It is not uncommon for au pairs to be asked to accompany the family on holidays, all expenses paid.
The standard pay is approximately $150/week for 25 hours work including a night of babysitting. Board varies depending on the living arrangements of the family, but can range from a basic single room to a fancy self-contained apartment.
For more info log on to AIFS Au Pair in Australia aupairinaustralia.com.au
TNT got in touch with Tanya Duckworth (pictured above) who runs a Facebook support group called Sydney Au Pairs. This is her story:
“In 2003 I traveled to the USA with Cultural Care au pair and worked for 13 months as a live-in au pair in San Antonio Texas. I had a wonderful time and a great host family, but it was four months before I made my first friend. I travelled the US with my host family for the first three months and then it was another month before I started college. When I started college I made great friends, but I wondered, if I hadn’t gone to college, how would I have met other people my age to hang out with?
When I returned home I started thinking about how au pairs coming to Australia feel and if they are in the same situation I was in. I started the original Sydney Au Pairs in 2007 as a Google Group, in an attempt to create some kind of support and help au pairs new to the Sydney area to make friends and organise events for people to meet each other.
When Facebook came out I created a Facebook group, then forgot about it for a few years…until I started getting all these requests to upgrade my group…when I went to check it out, to my surprise, my group had grown to over 1,000 members!
Since then, I have actively been trying to make the group a platform for creating social contacts for au pairs in the Sydney area.
Au pairs use my group to find replacement au pairs for their host families when they are returning home or continuing on their travels, to find travel partners for Australian adventures, to find a cheap place to crash on someone’s couch or a great hostel if they’re coming to Sydney for a few days to a few weeks, and to find people to go out to events with.
So the group supports each other in every aspect, from jobs to friendships, travel buddies and accommodation. Also, as I have just completed my degree in Psychology, I would like to try to develop the group to include support meetings for au pairs who might be having issues and don’t know where to turn.
I hope to be able to eventually provide a referral service for au pairs in difficult situations, to be able to seek professional advice from counselling services if and when they need it. It’s an all inclusive group. I never imagined that this idea would grow so huge.
I think au pairs are put in quite a fragile position, living in a house with a “family” who is new to them, who have their own rules and different cultural nuances. They really need the support
of others in the same situation who can empathise with the position that they are in. You live with this surrogate family for up to a year, and they can be wonderful families who you grow life-long bonds with, yet you never truly feel 100 per cent comfortable unless you have friends to hang out with as well.
Having other au pairs around you who understand that ‘slightly out of place’ feeling, is invaluable…and that is what Sydney Au Pairs is all about, creating a sense of community, and not being quite so alone in a new country.
Some of the au pairs in my group have found their host families through websites like greataupair.com and aupair-world.net, others have found their jobs through word of mouth and findababysitter.com.au.
For those with lots of experience thewrightnanny.com.au is a fantastic agency with great clients, great pay rates and they thoroughly screen au pairs via an interview process. It’s also important for au pairs to obtain a First Aid Certificate, I know so many who don’t have this, but it really is a necessary course, and it’s actually compulsory for anyone working in childcare in Australia to have this certificate.
The best advice I can give about finding a great agency and family, is to do your research, check references for the family and the agency by talking to au pairs who have worked for them or used the agency before.
Sydney Au Pairs is actually a great place for finding out from actual au pairs, who the genuine agencies are.”
To join the support group, click here.